12 October 2009

High days and holidays...

Last week Lynda and I took a few days off work. We had nothing really planned and just went with the flow. On Monday, after a couple of much needed extra hours in bed we headed into Derby. This was the only part of the break that was planned; we wanted to take a ride on the big wheel in Derby Market Place. Okay, so it’s not the London Eye but it was still well worth it! The wheel is 60 meters in height and gave us views much like the ones we had from the top of Derby Cathedral last summer. The information at the ticket office states that the ride lasts for around 15 minutes, we were on the first ride of the morning and it lasted for at least 25 minutes.

The Derby big wheel.


The Guildhall.

The Cathedral and the new Jury's Inn.

Me, with a load of steel work.

The new Cathedral Green.

The Guildhall tower and clock.

The Market Hall.

The Market Place.

After our big wheel adventure we spent the rest of the morning in Derby, shopping. The pain of this was eased, for me, by a stop at Muffin Break for elevenses - a slice of bacon and onion quiche and a mug of Cappuccino soon had me smiling again! I’m not a shopping fan but I do like coffee shops! Actually, that’s not quite true... Lynda took me to Costco on the way home and treated me to a mixed case of Wychwood Brewery beers. Now that IS my kind of shopping!

After stopping off at home to unload the shopping, and for me to change into my cycling clothes, we headed off to the bike shop to collect my Cannondale which had been in for it’s free 6-month check-up. All was pretty much as I expected with the bike, it had had a new chain fitted due to the original one having stretched but nothing else was needed - or so I thought. Before the chain was fitted the shop had told me that I really should be fitting a new gear cassette and front chain rings. Okay, so I’ve covered almost 1,000 miles on the bike but there was no way I was paying out almost a 3rd of the price of the bike after only 6 months! I told them to fit the chain and I’d see how things went. Needless to say, on the ride home a couple of the gears were skipping.

First thing Tuesday morning - well, okay, about 10:0AM - I went shopping for a new rear gear cassette for the bike. A little bit of internet research the night before had turned up a cassette that had a slightly wider set of gear ratios that would give me an extra 2 or 3 MPH for the same pedal effort. These were soon in my possession and, after a quick stop off at work to borrow a torque wrench, fitted to the Cannondale. After a short test ride to make sure everything was working as it should it was time to think about lunch - off to the pub we went! Lynda and I decided that we’d give The Bonnie Prince at Chellaston a try as we’d never been before. It turned out that the pub had only re-opened that day due to a complete refit. The pub was very nice, the food excellent - we’ll be back at some point in the future.

Wednesday, and it was shopping time again. This time it was a couple of garden centres that we visited. At the first we picked up a load of winter bedding plants that are now safely in the garden and at the second Lynda found a couple of Camellias that she instantly fell in love with and just HAD to have! The fact that they were priced as “two for one” just added to their appeal. The Camellias are also safely planted in the garden where we eagerly await them bursting into flower next spring! With all the plants we needed safely stowed away in the car there was nothing left to do but retire to the pub for lunch again. This time we finished up in another new to us hostelry, The Seven Wells at Etwall. The Seven Wells is part of the same chain as The Bonnie Prince so the menu was almost identical. Once again the food was excellent and we were left feeling full but not quite bursting - the Ruddles County ale was also very much to my liking! I can’t wait for our next time off work!

11 October 2009

Autumn colour...

Okay, this post is late, very late, but here goes anyway!

A few weeks ago - September 20th! - I spent a very enjoyable few hours out birding in the Trent Valley, visiting both Ambaston and Barrow-on-Trent.

The birding at Ambaston was okay but nothing spectacular. A small number of summer migrants were still enjoying the early autumn sunshine with 8 Swallow, 1 Reed Warbler and 2 Chiffchaff being recorded. In contrast, 4 Wigeon were a sign that winter is just around the corner - these being my first of the autumn. Two Snipe were also probably birds that had returned to the area after breeding elsewhere. Other birds of note included 5 Little Grebe, 9 Mute Swan, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, 80 Black-headed Gull, 5 Stock Dove, 3 Grey Wagtail and a Jay.

As I had left the house before Lynda was awake I took the opportunity to borrow her camera and managed to capture a few shots of the autumn colours...

From Ambaston I moved on to Barrow-on-Trent where once again the birding on offer was okay but I didn’t turn up anything unexpected. As things were a little quiet I decided on a bit of counting - I tend to count birds quite a lot when it gets quiet! Some of the better numbers were... 34 Cormorant, 122 Tufted Duck, 170 Lesser Black-backed Gull and c1000 Black-headed Gull. The highlight of the morning though was the number of Common Buzzard, 15 of them soaring over the lake! This was by far the largest number of Buzzard I had ever seen together in the county and it is a sight that will stay with me for a long while. Some of the other birds seen included 2 Kingfisher, a handful of Swallow and House Martin, 2 Reed Warbler and 4 Yellowhammer.

Before heading home to Lynda, and my Sunday lunch, I rattled off another few photos on what had turned into a glorious autumn morning. I must try and sort out a new camera for myself at some point in the near future!